by Christian Ohnimus Wednesday, September 4
Syria has been engaged in a violent civil war between its government and rebel forces for 2 years now. In that time over 100,000 people have died and 2 million people are now refugees. In a recent attack, chemical weapons killed an estimated 1,400 people and, though its not entirely clear that the Syrian government was behind the attack, President Obama is now seeking retribution. Obama has stated that he will urge Congress to permit military intervention in Syria.
In a war that has already killed 100,000 people, why does this one attack represent a turning point? First, the use of chemical weapons violates international law. Second, Obama stated about one year ago that chemical weapons would “cross a red line.” This attack has crossed that line and now Obama feels compelled to act.
However, this illegal use of chemical weapons provides no legal justification in either international or in U.S. law for a military strike against Syria. The world recognizes only two justifications for armed intervention: self-defense, and U.N. Security Council approval.
Furthermore, Obama has made it clear that he has no intention of trying to resolve Syria’s civil war and end the bloodshed. There will be no “feet on the ground.” Instead, Obama’s plan of attack centers around the use of missile strikes meant to hurt the Syrian government in retribution for using chemical attacks and to dissuade their use in the future.
The efficacy of such an intervention seems questionable but what is not questionable is its immorality.
The following is an excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and outlines the conditions necessary for legitimate use of force. All conditions must be met for the use of force to be legitimate:
– the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
– all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
– there must be serious prospects of success;
– the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
Obama’s proposed military intervention fails to meet any of these criteria. The United States is under no personal threat and we would not be acting in any way to remove the very real threat posed to Syria’s civilians, it is not a last resort, the prospects of any kind of “success” are dubious, and we would risk inflicting even greater bloodshed in an already violent region.
Syria is locked in a bitter power struggle in which there are no good guys and we should do what we can as a nation to help resolve Syria’s terrible plight and restore peace. However, military intervention on our part is in no way justified and the strikes proposed by Obama will do nothing to bring peace to the region. Instead, we must prudently employ non-violent interventions and, above all, we must pray.
Christian Ohnimus is a registered nurse in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Franciscan University. He is a contributor to The Porch and The Catholic Renaissance.